WHO Blames Drug Industry for Ebola Vaccine Delay

NOVEMBER 05, 2014
During her speech at a Regional Committee for Africa meeting held on November 3, 2014, Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), criticized the drug industry for delaying the development of an Ebola vaccine.

"Ebola emerged nearly 4 decades ago," Dr. Chan noted. "Why are clinicians still empty-handed, with no vaccines and no cure?"

She argued that no research has started because Ebola has been confined to poorer countries in Africa, so "the R&D incentive is virtually non-existent."

"A profit-driven industry does not invest in products for markets that cannot pay," Dr. Chan pointed out. "WHO has been trying to make this issue visible for ages. Now, the people can see for themselves."

According to the latest data from the WHO, at least 13,567 people contracted Ebola during the last outbreak, of whom 4951 died.

Dr. Chan eluded to previous pleas to the drug companies for an Ebola treatment, but hoped that the most recent outbreak will shine the light on the industry's inaction.

In October, the WHO said it anticipates launching vaccine trials in December, with results becoming available in April 2015.

"Vaccine is not the magic bullet," said Dr. Marie-Paule Kieny, assistant director general for health systems and innovation of the WHO, at a news conference held in Geneva, Switzerland. "But, when ready, they may be a good part of the effort to turn the tide of this epidemic."

Dr. Kieny said mass vaccination against Ebola may occur in 2015, but largely depends on the efficacy and safety of experimental vaccines in early-stage trials.

Two vaccines are currently being developed, one by the National Institutes of Helath in conjunction with GlaxoSmithKline, and the other by the Canadian government and NewLink Genetics. If their safety is established in early trials, the vaccines will be tested first in Sierra Leone and Liberia.

Additionally, WHO officials have reported that 5 other vaccines may begin undergoing trials in 2015.

Hopefully, the movement towards finding new treatments and prevention strategies will turn the tide against the Ebola epidemic.

Alex Barker, PharmD
Alex Barker, PharmD
Alex Barker is the founder of The Happy PharmD, which helps pharmacists create an inspiring career, break free from the mundane "pill-flipping" life. He is a Full-time Pharmacist, Media Company founder, franchise owner, Business Coach, Speaker, and Author. He's also the Founder of Pharmacy School HQ, which helps students get into pharmacy school and become residents.